photo courtesy of flickr user Vancouver Public Library
I’m on the job hunt.’ I have been for some time despite loving my job.’ I’m lucky enough to have found a position fairly quickly after graduating doing pretty much exactly what I want to do, being a teen librarian. ‘ I am also the first teen librarian my library has ever had.’ Yes, they have a separated YA collection (an only slightly more recent addition than me), but they had yet to offer a cohesive teen program let alone have a staff member devoted to the teens and to creating programming for them before I started working there.’ I got to start from scratch; to try out programs I thought would be fun and throw out things I saw didn’t work.’ It’s been a lot of work and while there is so much I would change or do differently and so many things I really want to do with my teens; I think that my first year as a Teen Librarian at a library experiencing their first year with teen centered programming, has been a great success.’ (I reserve the right to take back that statement after I see how our first teen summer reading program goes!)
But remember, I said I’m on the job hunt.’ Not because I don’t love my job, I really do.’ I’m looking for a new position because I am only part-time.
Over the past several months YALSA has sponsored and been a part of several activities focused on the future of libraries. These include the National Forum on Libraries and Teens and the Connected Learning month (MAY) all about the future of libraries. As I’ve participated in these events one thing has continually struck me as being at the heart of the future of successfully serving teens in libraries – physically, digitally, virtually – and that’s the importance of mentoring. This is mentoring of teens who take part in library initiatives and mentoring of colleagues who are learning how to be successful within new library models.
Consider these Twitter posts related to the topic of mentoring and the future of libraries:
Have you ever noticed the number of posts on Twitter, or Facebook, or blogs that pose the question, Do teens….? This could be: Do teens use Twitter, Do teens still use Facebook, Do teens use Tumblr, Do teens read horror, Do teens eat peanut butter? These questions have started to annoy me because while I value connecting to a professional learning network as much as the next library staff member serving teens (I really do), I think that instead of asking everyone in the world about teens generally, we should connect directly with teens in our own communities and ask them how they are spending their time, what technology they use, what they like to read, and so on. Sure, the teen library staff member in the next town over, or across the country, might have some insight on what teens like, dislike, and how they spend their time But, she probably does not know the specifics of your community that can make something the most or least popular thing around for the teens that you work with.
I understand that if we glom all teens into a group that it makes understanding them and providing services easier. And, I also understand that sometimes generalizations work. It’s also true that research that focuses on teens as a group, such as that just published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project on Teens, Social Media and Privacy can be really useful and help to set a foundation for the work done with the age group in libraries. But, what I worry about is that some library staff working with teens use the generalizations and what works in one community as the foundation for what they do for/with teens in their own community without ever talking with teens in their locale directly. And, as a result, miss opportunities for creating services that are personalized and customized and just right for that specific community’s teens.
Marketing for advocacy doesn’t just need to come out of storage annually, like holiday decorations, when it’s time to defend this year’s youth services budget. Instead, advocacy needs to happen all year-round. If we’ve done our work during the year, it should be easy to have a range of examples of real impact from which to draw when next year’s budget is being decided. Continue reading
In the mad rush to get out the door in the morning, I’ve left behind my keys, my wallet, and my MetroCard (The card those living in New York City use to get on public transportation). By the time I realize my mistake it is always too late (or I’m too lazy to run back to my apartment) and I make it through the day as best I can without these vital tools of a New Yorker.
But I have never, ever, forgotten my cell phone. If I realize, half-way down the block, that I have, I run back for it. When I chaperone school trips, I’m that weird lady who pulls out a charger and plugs my phone in to the nearest outlet, be it in a Starbucks or a courthouse. It’s my lifeline, and I feel strangely vulnerable without it; like this will be the one day my mother has an accident, my best friend has a break up, or my apartment catches on fire.
I use it for music. I use it for reading. I use it for maps, and games, and to keep track of my notes. I use it when I’m bored, I use it when I’m tired, I use it when I’m stuck between stations on the subway. My phone goes with me everywhere, and I am never without it.
Your teens are the same way. They would rather go without water than a data connection. They use their phones for enjoyment and work; reading and classifying if an animal is a llama or a duck (it’s a harder distinction than you might think). Their phones have become constant companions and guides. I wrote in my last article about what this means for the next generation of digital literacy; training on these devices is paramount is we want to produce a generation of informed information and device users. But no less important that providing information and training is providing consumable content– stuff for teens to do with their phones.
I manage youth services in a large urban public library. Up until last year, we had not hired youth services librarians in almost five years. While we aren’t hiring at the pace we were ten years ago, and we aren’t creating new positions, we’ve opened up a number of youth services positions in the last year or so. It hurts to see how many extremely talented librarians are looking for work â€“ and it’s tough that we can interview such a small percentage â€“ and hire an even smaller segment of those.
I hope we can continue to hire, and I hope other systems can, too. Here are some of the qualities that I see as most desirable in youth services librarians. As a caveat, this is just my perspective. I can’t speak for other hiring managers in my system or others. Continue reading
There’s never been any shortage of â€œDigital Dividesâ€ for us to talk about. The haves versus the have nots, the young versus the old, the tech natives versus the technology-as-a-second-language folks.
But even if your patrons have the internet and know not to call it â€œThe YouTube,â€ there’s another digital divide in America that can be just as limiting as not having a connection at all: how teens, and adults, are getting online.
Access to Broadband
The FCC reports that 94% of Americans have access to high speed internet, a huge increase from the 15% who answered the same way in 2003. But that still leaves 6% of Americans— over 19 million people– without access to high speed internet. Concentrated mainly in rural and tribal lands, the populations who can’t access the higher level functions of the internet are arguably the most in need. And in places where broadband is available, over 100 million Americans still do not subscribe to it.
The Introduction of Smartphones
At the same time, smartphone usage is growing among teenagers, giving kids who have never owned a computer a way to access the internet that’s personal and reliable. A recent Pew Center report found that 37% of teenagers own smartphones. For many, these phones have become their primary way of accessing and sharing information— from social networking to texting to accessing library resources.
The widespread use and availability of smartphones to these teens is a great advancement, and an important step in the battle to make the internet accessible to all. But smartphones, for as great as they are, are not a digital panacea. And that’s where libraries (and you) come in.
Most of us are actively creating and supporting ways for young people to connect, create and collaborate with each other but are we doing it in our own work? This post focuses on creating with our colleagues.
A few years ago I learned some techniques that, quite literally, saved me from myself. I hadn’t been managing staff very long and wasn’t very experienced in supervision. I tended to think that if staff had a problem, it was my job as a supervisor to fix it for them rather than helping them address â€“ and find a solution for â€“ the problem itself. Many of the supervisory classes I had taken focused more on a â€œthe boss is in charge/don’t question itâ€ style of management â€“ and that just didn’t feel right to me. I was moving into a new position as a co-manager of a large library in our system and knew I needed some new techniques in my toolkit.
Our library is a county department and the county had just started a facilitation network â€“ to train internal staff to facilitate on behalf of other departments in the county â€“ believing, rightly, that this was a cost saving measure â€“ and also believing that there was great value for everyone in making meetings run better. Continue reading
Most of us are actively creating and supporting ways for young people to connect, create and collaborate with each other but are we doing it in our own work? This is a series of three posts about these three Cs in our work — this one focuses on connecting with our colleagues in the library.
For the staff that I work with today in our library system, collaboration and co-creation are critical and happen every day. We have many libraries that are co-managed and nearly all of our work in Youth Services, which I manage, is done by workgroups or small project teams. Even if you’re the sole project manager on a small pilot project, you still are in constant communication with your colleagues who are testing your form or trying a program you came up with.
This type of work is harder for some us than others â€“ but in a big system, it’s absolutely critical â€“ we don’t have the capacity for all of our libraries to be doing 41 completely different things â€“ we have to share what’s working and let our colleagues take our good idea and make it even better. Continue reading